Can you think of a favourite book, a story, poem or written piece that has transported you somewhere? Indeed, the written word can take us to magical places, a land far, far away, a fantasy world or one that feels like absolute reality.

I did not believe the effect that the written word could have on the mind and spirit until I sat in on a scheduled Reader Group, a little over 18 months ago. It is a simple, but not simplistic group. A poem, chosen by the host, (a trained volunteer), is read out loud to a small group of attendees. Each volunteer scans the text, searching for pulse points with which to draw their audience in, and the magic of this group lies there, in the text. This sitting motivated me to become a Reader volunteer, and now I can witness our ‘Circles Connected’ group members’ minds being opened weekly to possibility through prose.

Shared reading sessions are an adventure into the unknown, a text that appears one way to an individual will appear very differently to another. Conversations can and do flow freely when the words spark a thought, a feeling, a deep emotion and memories of days long passed. A few weeks ago, we read the reminiscent ‘I remember’ by Thomas Hood, whose wistful words take us on a journey through childhood. One group member told us of how the author’s laburnum planted in youth reminded them of a much-loved tree at their family home and evoked fond familial memories of their time there. Another talked of their time as a child and how the world is amplified by the curious mind of youth. They added that, to them, ‘Bees were more stripey’ in their formative years that they have ever appeared since. This poem ends with Hood recalling how his memories were “a childish ignorance, but now tis little joy, to know I’m further off from heaven, than when I was a boy”, this sentiment brought mixed feeling in the group, some felt it sad that he felt so far from heaven. However, others felt this was a blessing, that heaven felt so far away, and that time on earth is precious, something to be embraced.

Poetry can challenge us, but it can also sooth us, and indeed, can take us to a place we cherish. It can allow us time from the hectic schedule or from the boredom of inactivity; it can allow us to reconnect with ourselves and others. So, I leave you with this final thought, the opening lines from a poem entitled ‘Leisure’ by W.H Davies, that many may remember, “What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare”.

So why not take time to stand and stare…